To segue off my last post under this umbrella titling (the topic of which was “wheat/grains”), the life changing (as well as health changing, and figure changing) power of eating akin to how humans were originally designed to eat…
Why are so many of us (a vast majority of citizens, with the number continuing to climb) overweight? Perpetually lethargic? Why nowadays do our citizens have a laundry list of diseases and health problems, from cancer, to diabetes, health disease, high blood pressure, and more. When back during the early days of humans, diseases were rare to nonexistent. Why, especially Americans, are we all about fitness, getting “ripped” and perpetually dieting, yet as a collective whole our weight continues to climb and climb? Why, most of the time when people lose weight, do they eventually gain it all back and then some? Why do we eat huge meals and then find ourselves starving again just a few hours later?
According to a lot of compelling research, the reason is because there is a major mismatch between our genes and the lives we lead today.
The other reason is because a vast majority of our society as a whole, is addicted to sugar. Not addicted as in, we like it a lot and just enjoy eating it. Addicted as in a drug addiction. Dont believe me? Start reading about it more, both via this blog post, and books as well as articles online.
So first, a more general health perspective on our culture. Humans aren’t adapted to be sitting behind desks for 6, 7, 8, 9+ hours a day, eating Doritos, candy bars, drinking soda (diet or not), spending our evenings on the couch watching TV, living lives in which we are largely overworked and overstressed, perpetually behind on sleep, and eating lots of foods that are frozen, processed, loaded with chemicals and sugar.
Our distant hunter gatherer relatives were healthier and lived longer than most people think. Thus, there is a certain logic to it that, in order to be our healthiest selves, it makes sense to eat, move, and live as we were initially born to. Not the ways into which we have slid and lazed, via many of our cultural constructs.
To gloss over it quickly, eating Prehistoric or Paleo means avoiding processed foods, as well as casting an eye on allegedly healthy agricultural foods like grains (oats, pasta, bread, wheat, bran, etc) and legumes (wheat, corn, soy), as well as dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese), none of which entered the human diet in any meaningful way until the Agricultural Revolution, roughly 10,000 years ago, and coincidently coinciding with the entrance of a LOT of physical health problems into our society.
They also didn’t eat any sugar, with the exception of sugar thats naturally found in fruits, and then eventually honey.
Sugar comes in multiple forms (glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose) but none of them are healthy in large, concentrated quantities. However, because the body metabolizes sugars in different ways, varying sugars bring varying benefits and risks.
Glucose is the sugar found in starchy foods like potatoes and rice. Its used by the body in a variety of natural processes like fueling the brain. Too much glucose in the bloodstream however, is toxic. The body releases the hormone insulin whenever glucose is taken in, which then stores excess glucose in muscles, liver, and fat tissue. When people snack throughout the day to “keep their blood sugar up,” they are attempting to maintain a consistent level of glucose in the bloodstream- although what they are often unaware of is that they are slowly poisoning themselves.
Fructose is the sugar found in fruit, as well as sweeteners like corn syrup. Unlike with glucose, the body doesnt use fructose directly Its shuttled to the liver where its then converted into glycogen (stored energy). However, the liver only has the capacity to store the equivalent of a couple pieces of fruit, less than one can of soda. The rest must then be converted into fat, which happens over a slower, less efficient, more damaging process. Excessive consumption of fructose contributes to getting fatty liver disease, kidney stones, and gout. It also causes a variety of symptoms of aging.
The best way to avoid too much fructose? Avoid processed foods, like soda or pastries. Fruit is best eaten whole (not as juice), and in smaller quantities. Also, eat fruit in the morning, when the livers stores are more likely depleted.
Lactose is the sugar commonly found in milk. Interestingly, milk initiates a strong insulin response from the body- much stronger than the equivalent amount of glucose in say, a potato. Given that one of glucoses roles is to store excess energy as fat, this is reason enough for lactose intolerant people to avoid it.
Sucrose is table sugar. Adding large amounts of this to a meal or baked goods is a double hit on the metabolism. Not good.
Eating sugar causes deposition of fat in the liver, its absolutely a huge factor in getting diabetes, its highly addictive-akin to a cocaine addiction and thus, the reason why so many people have such trouble cutting out sugar entirely (or will do so, but then return to it full force. Then try cutting it out again, then return full force, and so on).
Eating sugar increases your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), it raises your risk of heart disease and obesity, also sugar gives you the false sensation of being full only to leave you famished an hour or two later- thus, its empty calories. Its also awful for your skin. More than just a little sugar causes uneven skin tone, pimples, and eventually loss of elasticity in your skin- giving you more wrinkles and sooner.
Here is an article on the Top 9 Reasons to Avoid Sugar.
And, an especially compelling article: 7 Things that Happen When You Stop Eating Sugar (hint: your memory improves, skin clears, WAY better for your heart, you will sidestep diabetes, sleep will come more easily to you at night. Loads of powerful reasons and information in here).
Lastly, here is an article I wrote on my other blog a couple years ago, titled “Sugar Shock,” all about the dangers of eating sugar, as well as a couple yummy sugar free recipes.
So, as a conclusion to this article on why sugar wrecks havoc on your health, both over the short and long term, here are several recipes for your own sweet tooth to dance and grin over which contain no sugar (aside from honey or maple syrup for sweetening).
Click on the entrée/dish name to be taken to the recipe page for how to make it.
(Additionally, if you would like a similar list of several grain free/wheat free/gluten free recipes, here is the link to that as well).